Hamas chief to hold crucial talks in Egypt for Gaza ceasefire, prisoner exchange

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh is set to visit Egypt Wednesday for talks on a ceasefire in Gaza and a prisoner exchange with Israel, a source close to the Palestinian militant group said.

Qatar-based Haniyeh will head a “high-level” Hamas delegation to Egypt, where he is due to hold talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel and others, the source said on Tuesday.

The discussions will be “on stopping the aggression and the war to prepare an agreement for the release of prisoners (and) the end of the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip,” the source said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to talk about the visit.

Under a week-long truce deal last month which Qatar helped negotiate, backed by Egypt and the United States, 80 Israeli hostages were freed in exchange for 240 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

According to the Hamas source, the talks in Egypt will focus on “the delivery of humanitarian aid, the withdrawal of the Israeli army from the Gaza Strip and the return of displaced persons to their towns and villages in the north”.

Haniyeh’s visit will be his second to Egypt since the start of the war on October 7, following a trip in early November.

US news platform Axios on Monday reported that David Barnea, the head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, met Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and CIA director Bill Burns in Europe to discuss a potential new deal to free hostages.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had “just sent the head of Mossad to Europe twice to promote a process to free our hostages.”

“I will spare no effort on the subject, and our duty is to bring them all back,” he said in a statement.

Meeting with hostage families on Tuesday, Netanyahu said “saving them is a supreme task.”

Anger, fear and calls for a ceasefire from hostages’ families have intensified after Israeli forces in Gaza mistakenly shot dead three captives who had escaped their captors.

The deadliest-ever war in the narrow territory began after Hamas militants poured across the border on October 7 and killed about 1,140 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on the latest official Israeli figures.

During their attack, militants abducted around 250 people, latest Israeli figures say.

In Israel’s retaliatory bombardment and ground offensive against Hamas, at least 19,667 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Palestinian territory.

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